The information age has brought profound change to the delivery and volume of communication. Since the invention of the World Wide Web in 1990, the ways that we source information have radically changed. More than 3.7 billion people now use the internet. Every second, approximately 40,000 Google searches are conducted to easily and rapidly access information. Every minute, 156 million emails and 16 million text messages are sent. On Facebook, 1.5 billion people are active every day. The amount of data produced and consumed every day is truly mind-boggling!
How does the radical transformation in the processes and amount of information gathering impact creativity? It the impact positive or negative? The answer is both.
How does the internet positively impact creative growth?
The internet gives people more direct, constant, and wide-ranging access to information which can inspire creative projects and solutions. Access to abundant ideas can be inspirational to the creative process.
Unlike any other time in history, we can now learn and share with people around the globe in seconds. Creative collaboration is powerful, and the internet allows us the opportunity to collaborate with 1.5 billion people.
The internet gives individuals access to tools to develop and share creativity. YouTube, Brainsparker, Loop and Trello are just a few of the applications that encourage creativity and are free and accessible to all through the internet.
How does the internet negatively impact creative growth?
The rapid pace of stimulation and the influx of information are distracting to the human brain. We are wired to attend to novel experiences. The constant flow of stimuli present in the information age encourages people to live in a zone of continuous partial attention. Attention to creative problem solving is at risk when focus is constantly interrupted and overwhelmed.
Creative problem solving requires utilizing known information to build solutions. Increasingly, people are storing information online instead of in their brains. We need stored information to connect the dots as we devise and innovate (and it can’t be stored in the cloud).
We don’t try to innovate solutions. Due to the availability of solutions to thousands of problems online, we don’t give ourselves room or time to problem-solve on our own. Necessity is called the mother of invention, and we don’t need to invent original solutions in a world where they are so readily available. But if we don’t use our creative and innovative skills regularly, we might lose them.
Of course, the internet is not responsible for its impact. People need to thoughtfully consider the impact of the internet on their own creative processes and act accordingly. And unplug when needed.